Women entrepreneurs need business funding as much as any other entrepreneur. This could be in the form of investment, loans, grants or another form of support.
The good news is that a record number of women are starting businesses. The 2022 Rose Review showed that there were 145,200 all-female-led incorporations in 2021, up from 56,200 in 2018. That’s year-on-year growth of 37.3 per cent.
The bad news is that all-women-led businesses are still receiving less funding. The UK VC & Female Founders Report, commissioned in 2017, found that less than 1p from every £1 of VC funding went to all-female founder teams and mixed gender teams got 10p out of every £1. Meanwhile, all-male founder teams got 89p. Even in 2022, businesses set up by women alone raised 9 per cent of equity funding, though that is up by 6 per cent from the previous year.
That’s all the more reason for having funding that’s specific to women entrepreneurs. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at grants.
What business grants are available for women?
These business grants for women are mostly in the form of competitions but they can also be included as part of a start-up programme or an incubator programme.
Women in Innovation Award
Run by Innovate UK and part of UK Research and Innovation, the Women in Innovation Award offers 50 awards to women business owners across the UK. The winners will receive a £50,000 grant along with a bespoke package of coaching, mentoring and business support. The award is for female founders, co-founders or senior decision makers working in businesses that have been operating for at least a year. Applicants must be confident that they can make a significant contribution to a pressing economic, societal or environmental challenge and that this can be helped by winning the award.
The current round is closed but keep an eye out for the next one.
How to apply: On the Innovate UK applications page.
>See also: Grace Beverley: ‘The onus can’t be on women to fund other women’
Cartier Women’s Initiative
The Cartier Women’s Initiative involves various award schemes geared at entrepreneurs around the world. Categories are Science & Technology Pioneer Award; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award; Impact Awards and Regional Awards. Prizes are as follows:
- US $100,000 for first place awardees
- US $60,000 for second place awardees
- US $30,000 for third place awardees
All awardees will receive people support, international exposure and media visibility.
The 2023 awards are closed but are expected to open again later in the year.
How to apply: Sign up to the Cartier Women’s Initiative website and keep up to date with the next competition opening.
The Abie Awards, from The Anita Borg Institute, celebrate the successes of women and non-binary technologists as well as those who support women in tech. The Award categories for 2023 are as follows:
- Technical Leadership
- Student of Vision
- Social Impact
- Education Innovation in Honor of A. Richard Newton
- Emerging Technologist
Winners will receive a cash prize. This varies from year to year but has been up to US $50,000. The prize also includes an all-expenses-paid trip to the Grace Hopper Conference, where the ceremony is held, plus multiple speaking opportunities.
How to apply: Until the 2023 applications open, you can register your interest through this online form.
Other grant schemes worth mentioning
If these opportunities aren’t for you, some programmes attract a high proportion of women founders, such as the scheme below.
A huge 70 per cent of founders on Hatch Enterprise’s core programmes are women. The Launchpad, Incubator and Southwark Pioneers Fund Accelerator are open to entrepreneurs at various stages of their business.
Graduates on the New Founder Programme can get a grant up to £1,000, while graduates on the New Founder Incubator Programme can apply for a grant of up to £5,000 to help their business grow and reach the next level. This could be exploring new markets, increasing trading, building capacity or measuring impact.
How to apply: You must have completed the New Founder Launchpad or the incubator programme delivered through Hatch. Selection will be based on the impact of the funding on your business along with the social and environmental impacts of the project you want to fund.
Alternatively, you could focus on a different niche for grants – think geography, sector, what stage of entrepreneurship you’re at or what projects/improvements you’d like to make to your business. Check out these other grant articles:
Further reading on investing in women entrepreneurs
Q&A – Sarah Turner, Angel Academe: ‘Women tend to talk more honestly about their business’